The bed felt extremely good this morning… and it took just about all effort I could muster to leave it, shower and go fetch some breakfast. As a result it is after 10 am and I am finally sitting down to blog. This morning I am listening to Red Hot Chilli Peppers as an attempt to block out the world and focus on my writing. So far it is having mixed results because at the same time I am downloading Dragons Prophet to my laptop… and I am getting the occasional cut out, as I am streaming the music from my network attached storage. Apparently I am flooding my wireless cards capacity with that 8 gig download.
The Dragod Comes
Last week this video was released about the new SOE game Dragon’s Prophet, and as silly as it sounds… this prompted me to download the game. Anyone who could create a video this awesome… had to be up to some good. I am a rather simple monkey, and if you give me a big dude in armor with an even bigger sword… and I am generally pretty happy. I figured this would be the kind of game that I play for a few hours and forget about forever. Funny thing is… the game is really good and is extremely fun to play. I expected the game to be a big dumb beat-em-up and what I found instead was a strangely nuanced game.
Belghast the Dragon Tamer
Belghast lives again as a Guardian… which is essentially the big heavy armored warrior type. My first issue with the game was the character creator. This is another one of those games that for whatever stupid reason links hair style with facial hair style. So essentially I got to choose between guy with mutton chops and handlebar moustache… or member of the duck dynasty cast with dreadlocks. I thought it was kind of bullshit that there was not an option for a nice clean goatee and moustache. Stupid as it might sound… this is almost always my major issue with Asian MMOs… they seem to have nothing but clean shaven options.
If you have been following me for long, you will notice that almost every single character I make in any game looks the same. Ultimately Belghast is an idealized version of myself with black hair, goatee and Adrian Paul ponytail if the game supports it. I get grumpy when I cannot look the way I want to look, so this was an initial major strike against the game. Luckily as I got into the game itself I quickly forgot about this woe… and after spending some of my stockpiled station cash on cosmetic armor… you can no longer see the lower part of my face anyway.
The game itself reminds me of a mash-up of TERA, Neverwinter and Guild Wars 2, as it has aspects of all of the above with its own spin on each. Combat is pretty much controlled with left and mouse clicks and various combo abilities on Q, W, and Number keys. Your second mouse button varies based on how many times you have swung your main weapon. This produces some pretty interesting gameplay and offers a lot of variance of abilities without having to hit a lot of different buttons. For the guardian parry is R and charge is V… but I am sure some of these abilities change greatly based on your class.
There are various bugs with combat, namely the charge has a lot of issues. Sometimes you will charge directly to the mob you are wanting to attack, but other times you teleport across the screen… the screen freezes and when you get control again you have a bunch of friends on you. Essentially I have learned not to really rely on charging… and unfortunately that takes away some of my enjoyment. Instead of I have started using my Q ability which is a Guile like sonic boom attack. It travels a short distance and hits any mobs in the path, which I can then pull back and fight safely without aggroing other things.
The zone design reminds me a lot of Everquest 1. In that you have town hubs, with a ring of lower level mobs around it… but as you get further away from a town the mob levels increase. It is interesting to see zones designed specifically for early flying mounts, in that these mob level radius extend out from each little hub town. If you travel the path between towns you will see a progression of mobs that looks something like this… town 1, level 5, level 6, level 7, level 8, level 15, level 14, level 13, level 12, level 11 town 2. Essentially it seems like from ground up they are expecting players to charm a flying dragon and use it to hop back and forth between towns.
Another interesting concept with the game is the fact that you can charm a mount extremely early. I managed to get a flying mount at around level seven, pretty much as soon as I found a dragon out in the landscape. Essentially as soon as you get the “capture” ability unlocked you can whittle down a dragon in health and attempt to capture them. It might just be my imagination but it seems to get easier to capture them the more damage you have dealt to them before firing the command. At that point you mount the back of your dragon and have to play a mini-game in order to complete the capture. Essentially you have two bars… red meter that starts empty and fills, and a yellow meter that starts full. The goal of the mini-game is to keep your reins icon in the center of a circle on screen. If you get out of the circle, the yellow meter goes down rapidly… if it empties before the red bar fills you fail at the capture.
So the simple fact that you can capture a dragon is not as far as the Pokémon metaphor goes… you also inherit new abilities from the various dragons you capture. I am not 100% sure if I understand this all yet, there is a lot to figure out and not a ton of tutorial to do so. However it seems like every dragon you tame has new abilities, these range from attacks, to harvesting and crafting abilities. Eventually it seems like your dragon dictates whatever ability you have on the 1 key. My current dragon has this lightning leap attack which is extremely powerful. Additionally you seem to be able to stable your dragons and get them to learn new abilities. Obviously I need to figure more of this out… but the takeaway is… there is a lot of hidden depth in the game.
I seem to have won the lottery when I picked starting in Sibernia. I have been watching my friends talk about getting their first flying mount for a few weeks now… and the very first dragon I tamed had full flight. In fact it was not until I got into the level 12ish area that I found a pure ground mount. Having a wide array of flyers definitely has helped the enjoyment of this game, because seriously who doesn’t love riding a dragon? Two of the dragons I captured came from a dungeon and were somewhat akward to get to… so it seems like there are common and less common versions of the various dragons. My “emerald purple dragon”, definitely came with more abilities than any I had seen to that point… we will just ignore the fact that it has emerald in the name but has absolutely no green or yellow on it.
Station Cash Drain
One of the good things about this game is that it is by SOE, and uses the standard Station Cash system for micro transactions. As a result, I have a Station Access account, and have been accruing station cash for some time. The bad is that almost everything in this game has the option to spend SC in place of game money. This means not only cosmetic stuff, and stat boosts, but enchanting items, crafting etc. Everything has a slow money drain factored into it… but honestly I was expecting this from the company that brought us Runes of Magic. Most of my SC expenditures have been what I term quality of life. Essentially you can increase your bag and bank and stable space with station cash… all of which have made the game more enjoyable for me and less about micromanaging my inventory. The negative is I had about 7500 sc going into this and am sitting right at 3000 now.
The one thing I am surprised about is that so far I have not encountered the ubiquitous cash box, or anything even vaguely similar. Right now all of the station cash outlay seem to be on speeding up gameplay and buffing your character… but not necessarily direct money for items transactions. Those might be there… I may just not have encountered them. Additionally I have seemed to be able to live just fine off vendor and dropped gear, without need for anything more. I’ve decided that once again I prefer sword and board to two hander… but this is probably not a shocker to anyone. I look badass in my frosty/deathknighty armor… so I am completely happy running around and beating things down like a proper tank.
Essentially my takeaway at the end of the day, is this is a game that I had essentially written off as something that I was not likely to enjoy. However upon playing it, I am really having a blast doing so. Basically if you liked TERA, but were turned off by just how horrible the questing experience was… then this is the game for you. The combat is fun and strangely nuanced… and the dragon taming aspect throws something fresh into the mix. This is definitely gaming junk food, but the experience is so worth the calories. The game reminds me of so many other games, that combined it becomes its own very unique experience. The game is pretty brutal at times as well… I have died an innumerable amount of times… but there seems to be no punishing effect of it other than the slow bleed of repair costs. Download the game and give it a try, I figure you will find something in it you like.